MVNO Monday: a guide to the week’s virtual operator developments

30 Mar 2015

Mexico-based telecoms giant America Movil (AM) has signed an agreement with retailer Grupo Elektra under which the latter will lease capacity on AM subsidiary Telcel’s network, and enter the market as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Elektra, which sells electronic goods and household appliances, and also runs Banco Azteca through its financial division, is owned by the tycoon Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who exited the Mexican wireless sector earlier this year when he sold his interest in Iusacell to AT&T Inc for USD2.5 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal, the agreement suggests a warming of business relations between billionaires Carlos Slim, who controls AM, and Salinas Pliego, who also controls broadcaster Azteca. Slim’s companies stopped advertising with Azteca in 2011 over a dispute over advertising and interconnection rates. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, earlier this month Mexican fixed line operator Axtel signed a deal to become the first MVNO to be hosted on Telcel’s network.

A1 Telekom Austria has agreed a deal with new MVNO FenerCell Austria, a wholly owned subsidiary of Turkish football club Fenerbahce, to piggyback on its network. Around 40,000 Turkish-speaking Fenerbahce fans are believed to live in Austria. The concept is already well-established in Turkey, where mobile giant Avea has partnered with a series of branded resellers, the bulk of which are affiliated with major football clubs. Launched in 2009/10, these so-called ‘pre-MVNOs’ include FenerCell (Fenerbahce), GS Mobile (Galatasaray), TrabzonCell (Trabzonspor) and KartalCell (Besiktas).

The management team of Australian MVNO Yatango Mobile, which launched in March 2013 over the network belonging to Optus, have disclosed plans to take the company public through a reverse takeover of ASX-listed Latitude Consolidated. Fosters Stockbroking and Azure Capital will jointly manage the listing, which will see a 22.1% stake made available. Founder and CEO Andy Taylor is optimistic of raising around AUD6.0 million (USD4.6 million) through the process. Taylor commented: ‘The ASX is the right option for us at this stage of our evolution. We have a long-term business plan that is focused on building an ecosystem of tightly integrated consumer services around the world. Therefore, investing in growth is key, whilst continuing to show incremental growth in quarterly revenues.’ Going forward, Yatango plans to soft-launch MVNOs in the US and UK markets in the near-future.

TDC Sverige, the Swedish subsidiary of Denmark-based TDC, has struck a new MVNO deal with TeliaSonera Sweden, giving it access to the latter’s 2G, 3G and 4G networks for a period of four years. TDC first entered the Swedish enterprise MVNO segment in March 2007, via a network hosting agreement with Tele2.

Spanish cableco-turned-MVNO ONO is expected to introduce 4G connectivity for end-users on 16 April, following its switch from Movistar’s network to that of new sister company Vodafone Spain. ONO’s initial contract with Movistar dated back to September 2009; a renewal deal was agreed in May 2013. The cableco has been wholly owned by Vodafone Group since July 2014.

Similarly, Chilean cableco-turned-MVNO VTR has confirmed that it intends to offer Long Term Evolution (LTE) services to its users, courtesy of network partner Movistar Chile. The move means that VTR will become the first MVNO in Chile to offer 4G connectivity.

German MVNO Drillisch has reportedly acquired Dusseldorf-based mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) GTCom, which currently works as the technical provider for a number of well-known virtual operators. According to local media reports, last month Drillisch paid EUR1.6 million (USD1.7 million) for 97.5% of GTCom’s shares.

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